Detroit Pistons: Projecting the starting lineup for opening night

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons are a much different team from what they were even one year ago today. At that time, the November draft had not yet occurred, and there were still some players on the team from the previous management regime.

In 2021, several players are beginning their second season of tenure in Detroit, but no one has been there longer. Sekou Doumbouya, the last remaining player, tied to the pre-Troy Weaver era, was traded in early September.

The organization is one of the youngest in the league, which also means one with the least experience. For some players, this is their first full season in front of a crowd. Because of all this, there may be some “growing pains” throughout the season.

What follows is one likely starting lineup for the Detroit Pistons on opening night. While the lineup is fairly established, there is competition at one or two positions.

Point Guard: The point guard position is probably the most contested spot on the team. Cory Joseph is the closest player the 2021 Pistons have to call a “veteran.” Despite recently turning 30, this will be Joseph’s eleventh season in the league.

On the opposite end, Killian Hayes is 20 years old and missed most of his rookie season to a hip injury. Joseph is an equivalent passer with Hayes, but he is a better scorer. He shoots 45% from the field, and he turns the ball over about half as often. For those reasons, Joseph is the likely starter, at least for now.

Shooting Guard: Detroit is the first place where Josh Jackson saw most of his time at guard. Prior to last season, the majority of his minutes were at the forward role. Because of his size, however, Jackson is one of the better defenders on the team, and he scores points as well.

Of course, Cade Cunningham is looming in this scenario, but the organization is unlikely to take any chances on further aggravating his ankle. Jackson is fully capable of starting the season as the off guard.

Small Forward: Saddiq Bey entered the league doing precisely what he did in college. He shot threes at a high rate (6.6 attempts per game) and made 38% of them. He was also reliable, being the only Piston to appear in 70 games, with 53 starts. His defense was average, but the season was still good enough to earn a spot on the All-Rookie first team. Bey essentially sealed the starting small forward spot last season, and he has a lot of potential heading into his second year.

Power Forward: The Detroit Pistons brought in Jerami Grant to be a team leader last year, and by all accounts, he wanted to be a part of the city. He proved himself to be that leader, starting 54 games and seeing 34 minutes per game, the most on the team.

He also put up some immense box scores (which, to be fair, were boosted by a gaudy usage rate). Grant played well enough to be in the conversation for Most Improved Player, and he is the most surefire lock for a starting role in his second year with Detroit.

Center: Last season, Detroit created a logjam at center–to the point where it was becoming a joke around the league. The dust has settled a year later, and Isaiah Stewart is the only center remaining.

Stewart, the second sophomore on this starting list, quickly became a fan favorite because of his hyperactive play. He really came into his own in the last month of the year when he began starting games for Detroit. He qualified for second-team All-Rookie and led all rookies in rebounds.

With the year of experience, he should continue to improve on a successful first season. In the offseason, the Pistons brought in another second-team All-Rookie center (from 2014) in Kelly Olynyk. He will be one of the first men off the bench in either of the frontcourt roles.

Next. 2 measurable goals for success in the 2021-22 season. dark

In all, does that seem like a successful NBA team? Of course, that remains to be seen, but it is safe to say the Detroit Pistons will have some rough spots in 2021. It is a young team, though, so there is some hopefulness. There is always room to improve.